How to take Business Networking Online

by WorkFromHome on November 17, 2011

Networking was once the domain of smoke-filled rooms, full of professionals who had traveled various long distances and were in town for a limited time to discuss their accomplishments and ambitions. They were almost prohibitively expensive in many cases, charging high fees for attendance as well as requiring hotel stays, flights, and outings to country clubs and cultural attractions. And even today, many business networking events follow this same basic template and price structure.

But a good number of networking events have turned the industry on its head and promoted networking that is entirely based on the internet. This is where the utility of things like social media, video conferencing, and even text messaging, becomes quite apparent. Networking can now be done across cities, states, and countries without leaving a single room. So, how does one pursue effective online networking?

Using Social Media for Business Networking Success

The internet has no shortage of social media and networking sites, but they’re not all about “liking” someone’s status or posting a short tweet about what you ate for lunch. These social networking sites are fertile ground for networking, especially because people can be searched by their interests, likes, beliefs, and even their previous employers. It’s easy to spot who’s in your field, where their interests lie, and whether or not your should paths intersect. In a way, social networking can be used to meet your fellow professionals before you even meet them.

Beyond that, however, it can be used to actually meet them — via a friend request, a helpful tweet, or an invitation into your network. Consider that the internet doesn’t just boast Facebook and Twitter as its networking titans, but also the powerful LinkedIn website which exists of the sole purpose of business networking and development. This website, which is far more professional than the other two, suggests users send friend requests to people who are in the same field they work in. It further filters these suggestions based on geographic location, work experience, and even their collegiate alma mater.

And using LinkedIn allows employers to write glowing recommendations for employees; it also allows clients to recommend an employee to future clients. And it highlights a person’s accomplishments right alongside their business “business card data” such as contact information and present employer. LinkedIn could be considered an always-on, always-growing, and virtually-free business networking event.

Of course, the traditional social networks should not be shunned from the process, as far more people have a Facebook or Twitter account than a LinkedIn account. And using Facebook is a friendly, social thing to do. It helps humanize both sides of a meeting, allowing for a strong connection without ever having made that flight to the convention center for a weekend of handshakes.

Video Conferencing and the Evolution of Business Networking

It wasn’t too long ago that there was no such thing as “video conferencing.” As an early technology, video calls were limited to one-on-one interactions between just two people. Since then, video chatting technology has gotten increasingly advanced, while broadband connections have increased exponentially in terms of network capacity and overall speed. That means that many people can all be video conferencing at once — with all of them on the same screen, all interacting with each other simultaneously. As far as interacting online is concerned, there’s no more personable way to introduce yourself to other people and have a real conversation.

And that means videoconferencing is an increasingly popular option for professionals who wish to network with each other but can’t afford the high cost of entry to arranged business networking events. Instead, a number of smaller companies operate online business networking events throughout the week and allow nearly anyone to join so long as there is space in the conference.

It’s important to remember that these events are usually only between five and fifteen people in size, as video conferencing technology simply can’t support a truly large number of users jut yet. But because they occur far more often than larger, more professional events in the real world, it’s easy to attend many video networking events and meet a comparable number of people from all over the world.

Furthermore, because these video conferences are online and require no travel, they’re a great way to meet professionals in other countries who might offer a solid foot in the door for international expansion. It’s certainly cheaper than a flight to London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Sydney — and there’s a good chance it’ll present a far lesser language barrier, as well. That only optimizes the chances for success while minimizing the expense and stress involved in moving across the pond.

An Essential Part of the Process

In a world as diverse and global as ours has become in the 21st century, online business networking is just as useful and as important as events which take place offline. Meeting people from across the country or across the world, without actually having to afford that expense, allows fledgling businesses to grow by leaps and bounds without spending the kind of money that their earlier, technology-deprived predecessors had to spend on similar opportunities. It’s practically an invitation for growth and success, and it should be treated like the huge opportunity that it usually ends up being.

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